The answer to this question is not so simple. There are so many factors that come into play for each individual child. A girl who does not have a positive male in her life can definitely benefit from a male mentor. This becomes helpful for a young woman as she begins to identify the kind of man she ultimately wants in her life. She needs to have someone model that she is worthwhile and should be cherished and loved. However, it is more important to understand that girls need strong women in their lives to help them become strong women. A female mentor will help a young women realize her individual strength and show her how to celebrate being a woman. A female mentor will be able to relate to issues related to being female; for example, hormone changes that come with puberty, the pressures of relationships between girls, and how to create healthy boundaries with boys and other members of the opposite sex. A male mentor may provide support, but it is often including a power differential because of gender. There are also issues of boundaries with young women who are at risk. They learn to manipulate relationships with members of the opposite sex when they are not nurtured with healthy boundaries. Girls need to be able to rejoice in their own skin and be proud of being a girl. Who can do that better than another woman. It all comes down to celebrating GIRL POWER!
If there are no healthy female mentors, then a male mentor is a great option. A healthy mentor is better than no mentor at all. Studies show that a positive adult other than a parent increases the chances that a youth will follow a positive path and stay out of the juvenile justice system. This becomes extremely important when the parents are not positive role models.
The bottom line is that girls need a mentor no matter what. In fact, every child should have a mentor. It is the most important thing we can do as adults, show a child that we care, that we are interested, that we value them. Let them know that they are smart, funny, and precious. It is also important that we remember that being a mentor is also a valuable service to a parent. Even the most healthy, centered, and connected family needs help. It takes a village is not a cliche, it takes all of us together to help the next generation move to the next level.
I challenge everyone who reads this article to go out to your local YMCA, you church, or any other civic organization that focuses on kids and volunteer your time, just a few hours a month. You will see that you will grow as a person as much as the kids do.